Monday, October 01, 2012

Picking the delivery platform

Over a decade ago, the most used and perhaps the only form of training used to be traditional live in-person classroom trainings. In fact, in many parts of the world this is the only form of training available even to this day. In this method of training, the instructor and the students have to be physically present in the class while the training is delivered. Even though classroom training is still the most predominant form of training today, time and resource constraints always restrict the scope of training. The planning and scheduling involved just makes this so much more cumbersome. 

The last decade has seen an explosion of a variety of other delivery mechanisms. With the advent of the internet era and recent technological advances, it is now possible to deliver training using a wide range of delivery mechanisms. One of the most obvious developments is the boom of virtual online training technologies. In this type of training, the Instructor and students are remotely located and the training is delivered live through the internet. These sessions can even be recorded and can be used for future references or delivered to a wider audience. It is far easier and cheaper to do this than professionally record a training session delivered in a live classroom.

Another common trend with the coming of the Internet is the creation and delivery of self paced courses. These are courses created using desktop tools like power point slides with audio and may contain animations, quizzes etc. Dedicated course authoring tools are also used to create self paced courses. Once these courses are created, they are hosted online and the end users visit the site and sign up for these courses. Self paced courses may contain a high level of user interaction like filling out forms, attending quizzes etc.Self paced trainings have the added advantage that the learner can control the pace of the training which helps in better understanding of the course material.

With increasing bandwidths and faster networks, videos have become a popular medium for delivering training. Video recordings are made available online through Youtube and other video streaming services. Videos can be a recorded training, lecture, webinar etc. Pod casts are also used for delivering training.

Lets take a look at some specific applications of online training based on our personal experience of working with customers. Consider a training manager at a restaurant chain.
Even though most of the training for their chefs requires live in-person classes, they provide certain self paced courses about their background, history of the restaurant business, their customer philosophy, etc through self paced courses which the chefs can complete at their leisure time. Similarly, consider the medical profession and their unique requirements. Doctors and nurses can complete their continuing education credits through online courses and tests without having to sacrifice their practice. Another example, is the case of those who are in the business of sales training. In general, sales training has always been offered only in-person. But with the coming of the Internet the traditional sales training can be offered as self-paced combined with virtual classes and/or in-person classes. For example, short video clips can capture specific sales scenarios and explain how best to handle them. In other words, what was previously available only as a traditional classroom based training is now broken down into a combination of  options: Self-paced, in-person and virtual classes. There are scores of other examples that can be outlined based on our personal examples with customers. 

All of what has been described above won't be of much use unless you have a reliable platform that has the ability to scale to add different training methods as and when youu need them. For example, when you are just getting started you might decide to use the platform to manage only your in-person classes. Later you might decide to add self-paced courses. Further down the road you might want to add virtual classes as well. The ability of the platform to support multiple training methods is a key aspect. Very often the same platform might not have the capability to provide the technology required for all forms of training. In such cases, integration with third-party products/services becomes critical. Thus, selecting the right platform to deliver training has to be done carefully bearing in mind the long-term objectives of your training offering.